Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: OCEANS OF LOVE by Janet Lawler

OCEANS OF LOVE

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022

I love spending time at the beach! But a deep sea diver I am not, so I’m very happy to have Janet Lawler here today to talk about her new picture book, OCEANS OF LOVE! This new picture book is perfect for visiting underwater habitats without needing a wet suit and oxygen tank.

Welcome, Janet! You visited my blog back when Kindergarten Hat came out, which was soon to be followed by Good Night, Little Engine. Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to since then.

Wow! Time flies! Both those books released during the pandemic year 2020, a time that we all would like to put behind us. But I kept busy throughout since that is my way to handle challenging periods. And during the darkest months of the pandemic, I wrote There’s No Place Like Hope, an inspirational text to help kids get through tough spells. Optimism and hope help anyone facing uncertainty and upheaval, don’t you think?  That book, illustrated by Tamisha Anthony, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year.

Ooh, There’s No Place Like Hope sounds perfect! What a wonderful way to spend that closed-up time!

Congratulations on your new picture book OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking Books for Young Readers, February 1, 2022)! It is beautiful! What inspired this story?

Thanks, Angie. I am fascinated by the ocean, and that interest met up with my desire to write another story in my favorite genre—the “love poem.” My first published book, If Kisses Were Colors (Dial, 2003) compares a mother’s love to the vastness and beauty of the natural world. After that, I wrote a few more about how moms and dads show love to their little ones. But I ran out of humans! So I started musing about different animals. OCEANS OF LOVE takes a dive under the waves in an imaginary journey that ponders how sea dwellers might show maternal love.

Lol. You ran out of humans . . . I love the way you moved on to ocean animals.

What writing journey did you follow as you wrote OCEANS OF LOVE? How long did it take from idea to publication?

The journey started over 15 years ago, in 2006. I had already written A Mama Bug’s Love, taking an imaginary love tour with a bunch of bugs. Little Simon acquired and published that story in a pop-up book format. I hoped to have another book to follow and so began working on the text that became OCEANS OF LOVE. But the publisher discontinued that pop-up series and passed on the manuscript.

Over ensuing years, OCEANS OF LOVE spent a lot of time in a drawer as I worked on other stories and projects. I am not sure what caused me to revise and share it with my agent three years ago. After only a few submissions, my editor fell in love with it and acquired it in early 2020.

I’m so glad you decided to revise and share it with your agent!

The text is perfectly enriched by Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. How much input did you have as your book went to Holly to be illustrated?

I was given a chance to comment on illustrators the publisher was considering, and I said yes to Holly! I made small comments on sketches along the way. But for the most part, Holly took her own creative path to where my words inspired her imagination. Her luminous illustrations add depth and detail to my text, in addition to a lovely added story layer.

I totally agree! Holly added lovely layers to your story.

Did you do anything special for the book birthday of OCEANS OF LOVE?

I did my first in-person event in over two years, in conjunction with the wonderful children’s department of my town’s public library. I wore my special fish earrings and my seaweed scarf. I shared the book and its background, and kids joined in a fun fishing activity before going home with fish stickers and a “Love Fish” coloring/craft activity (folks can download that for free off the OCEANS OF LOVE  page on my website).

Fun! Thanks for the link!

What tip(s) could you offer to picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published?

I tell beginning picture book writers to focus on the craft of writing, so that the story is the best it can be before trying to find a publisher or agent. Early on in my career, I sometimes rushed to send out what I thought was the “perfect manuscript,” and the next time I looked at it (sometimes, the following morning!), I saw ways to make it better. I also tell new writers to research markets to make thoughtful submissions. There is so much information available now online about what different publishers and editors want for their lists. Target submitting greatly increases one’s chances of finding a home for a story.

Thank you! Excellent advice.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I am a Walrus Detective! The Walrus from Space project (co-led by the World Wildlife Foundation-UK and the British Antarctic Survey) is assisted by lay volunteers who analyze satellite images of the Arctic taken from space to see if there are any walrus visible. Anyone can do this, in spare time and with a little training! I am fascinated by this arctic mammal, which is why I wrote WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021). I hope you and your readers will check out the Walrus from Space project. The information gathered and analyzed will help experts better understand the impact of climate changes on walrus habitats.

That sounds fascinating! I was once using Google Earth, just popping around way up north of Alaska and Canada and spotted a beached whale on a tiny little spit of land! It was amazing!

Thank you so much for visiting, Janet! Congratulations on OCEANS OF LOVE and best wishes on your future projects!


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Haiku Moment: in pink

had my colors done

i’m a spring, bring on flowers;

lookin’ good in pink

in pink by Angie Quantrell

photo by Angie Quantrell, Yakima Valley


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Haiku Moment: snow hats

spring began, stuttered

winter rushed back, hanging on

dumped a cold white gift

my hat! it’s heavy

my neck bends low, ground view

where did the sun go?

we wait, hope for warmth

wrap our coat-leaves tight, shiver

dreaming of sunbeams

snow hats by Angie Quantrell

photos by Angie Quantrell, Yakima Valley


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Haiku Moment: leaking love

upon reflection

holes dripping lost connection

my heart leaking love

leaking love by Angie Quantrell

photo by Angie Quantrell, Tieton River Nature Trail, Washington state


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Author Interview: TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen H. Wu

I love learning how different foods are made, so you can imagine how much I loved reading this new picture book by Helen H. Wu. TOFU TAKES TIME (Beaming Books) will make its appearance on April 19, and I can’t wait! Let’s get right to it and meet the author.

Welcome, Helen! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much Angie for having me! I am thrilled to share more about TOFU TAKES TIME and my publishing journey. I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator. I work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publishing house which publishes picture books in Chinese and English.

I’m so excited about TOFU TAKES TIME! It makes me want to make tofu. Or at least eat some!

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME?

The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. It was during these times that she would share stories that transported me to faraway places and other eras. After I moved to the US and had my own family, my kids would ask many questions about the process and tools we used to make tofu together: serving as a warm reminder of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. Hence, a story began to take shape.

I LOVE that this picture book is so closely tied to your family and wonderful memories. What a special treasure for your family!

What was your writing journey for this book?

A great book calls for multiple layers with varied messages readers can take away from the story. Though the idea behind the book was grounded in the tofu-making process, I knew the story must involve a bigger concept that is more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, I noted their preoccupation with imaginative play and occasional complaints about the time required to cook a proper meal: which inspired me to weave the topic of patience into the text. In examining the tofu-making process in a more imaginative way, I discovered an assortment of inherent elements that connect with nature and even the universe at large. I’m now so happy to have found a sweet spot that includes food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love all tied into one story.

The way that TOFU TAKES TIME is told through the voice of a young child is pretty awesome! Learning patience is such a difficult thing for young people. I still struggle with being patient.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of TOFU TAKES TIME on April 19?

I have a book launch event planned on the book birthday, April 19th! I’m so excited to present the book launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with Avid Bookshop, with talented illustrator and bookseller Julie Jarema! The reading and conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7pm – 8pm ET on Zoom. Preorders from Avid Bookshop will come with a special bonus: a 5”x7” print, bookmark, food stickers, and a bookplate signed by the author and illustrator created just for TOFU TAKES TIME. Don’t miss your chance. You can register here:

 https://www.avidbookshop.com/tofulaunch (Isn’t it a cute URL for the event?)

LOVE it! So much fun!

I love the heart in TOFU TAKES TIME, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, and the connections between tofu and the ingredients/resources needed to make it. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

Thank you! Speaking of picture book writing, I didn’t have typical picture books when I was a kid growing up in China. We had black and white comic books and only in the last two decades, picture books were introduced into China. My writing career started from being part of picture book projects. Reading, especially reading all kinds of picture books, is one of the best ways for me to foster imagination, expand my knowledge, and be open to new ideas. Picture book is a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. And as an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.

I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, mainly Dick and Jane readers. I do remember jumping right into chapter books. Many of them are still favorites. I’m so glad that picture books are being published for much larger audiences. And the artwork of picture books is divine!

What are you working on now?

My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023. Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.

Oh, dragons! This sounds perfect!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Read as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write. Take picture book writing classes. Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Most importantly, keep writing and keep going.

Excellent tips. Writers, let’s get busy!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I started writing and illustrating in 2012 and since then I’ve self-published over 20 picture books. TOFU TAKES TIME is my first traditional published book, my debut book. Good things take time!

TOFU TAKES TIME is such a lovely, heart-warming story! I’m excited to see it out in the world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Helen! And CONGRATULATIONS!

About Helen

Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Currently, Helen lives in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids.

Learn more about Helen at:

HelenHWu.com

Twitter @HelenHWu

Instagram @HelenHWu


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Book Review: A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

Hello, friends! Just look at what I call “Girl in a Tree.” Her (current) favorite thing to do is climb trees. She was more than happy to shimmy up and strike a “missing-teeth” pose with Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s traditional retelling of a Yiddish folktale, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Thank you, Miss Autumn.

And thanks to Karen for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and Kathy Temean for hosting Karen and her picture book. You can read more about Karen on Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating.

Now, as a person who lives full-time in an RV with her husband and quite hunting-crazy cat Monet, I know something about being crowded. When all the grands are over (7), there is nary a place to sit. We have to double-up AND use the floor. Inside the RV, we have also had: 2 cats, 1 dog, a fledgling goldfinch, spiders, earwigs (YUCK), flies, wasps, adults, grandchildren, 2 bunnies…I think that might be it. Thankfully, this crowd was not all at the same time. Oh, and the occasional Monet-attempted catch-and-release mouse.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Told both in rhyming and lyrical text, the mix was perfectly combined for a satisfying read. Not too much of either, but just right. For a fun retelling of a traditional story, you need to read about Farmer Earl and his crowded farmhouse.

What I Like About This Book:

-humor abounds, though I imagine Farmer Earl would not feel the same way

-the hugely huge family (this phrase cracks me up)

-a fun, re-imagining of a classic tale

-the animals and chaos

-perfect little rhyming couplets that young readers will pick up in no time

-the combination of both lyrical and rhyming text

-adorable and engaging illustrations filled with plenty of details to amuse readers

Amazon Blurb:

Farmer Earl has had enough―his home is too crowded! So, he visits the wise woman in town for help. She tells him to bring all his ducks in the house. And then all his horses. And all his goats too! How will there be more room with all these animals? This updated folktale uses humor to explore what it takes to gain a new perspective.

Find Karen:

Amazon

Instagram

Twitter


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50 Precious Words: My Story for Vivian Kirkfield’s #50preciouswords Writing Challenge

JUMP IN!

by Angie Quantrell (46 words)

Jump in, jump in!

The water is warm.

Carrot

Tomato

Green Bean

Potato

More friends, more friends!

Dive in the pool.

Celery

Peas

Onions

Beans

Swim, swim!

Make a whirlpool.

Salt

Pepper

Corn

Butter

Soup’s on, soup’s on!

Time for a bowl.

Stir

Blow

Sip

Glow


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Blackout Poem: horse king

horse king by Angie Quantrell

Blackout poems are challenging and fun. I love playing with words and this take-everything-away-except-the-words-you-want is an exercise in deleting the fluff. I thought I was done with this poem, but something did not flow. It originally had 17 words. Actually, the entire page had hundreds of words, but I didn’t count those. I kept reading and rereading. Aha! I figured out which 2 words needed to be blacked out. Ta-dah! Here is horse king, a 15-word blackout poem by yours truly.

From the 15-word poem, can anyone guess which book this page comes from? Don’t worry, the book is old, missing pages, and falling apart. Besides recycling, wrapping gifts, art projects, and decorating walls, there is not much else I can do with this book. Let me know your guess in the comments below.


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Illustrator Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup, Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Welcome back, friends! Last Wednesday, Hunter Liguore visited to share about her new book. You can hop over to read that interview here and get your name in the hat to win a copy from Yeehoo Press.

Today I am delighted to introduce Vikki Zhang, the talented illustrator of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. Vikki joins us from China. Vikki has generously shared some of her works-in-progress and completed spreads, but you really need to read this picture book in person to see the details and feel the wonder of this lovely book. The partnership between Hunter and Vikki comes to life in each page!

Character development work-in-progress

Welcome, Vikki! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! My name is Vikki Zhang, I came from China, Jiangsu. I received my MFA of illustration at School of Visual Arts in 2018. Then I began my career as a freelance illustrator in New York. I created art for children’s books, editorials, book covers, brands, and product surface, etc.

I am also the founder and art director of Nianyi(年衣), a kids fashion brand, based in Beijing.

Wow, I see plenty of creative opportunities for you! Congratulations on your work!

Congratulations on your new book The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup! Once you read the manuscript from Hunter, how did you get your inspiration for the illustrations you created for the book?

Thank you, Angie. I am so pleased you enjoy the reading.

Hunter’s writhing is full of love and benevolence, like the yellow lamplight emitted from the deep woods. For the protagonists are a little girl and her grandmother, I am thinking of the objects and details appeared from my experience living in the grandparents’ home. The clock, the tablecloth, the pot, the outfits and so on are directly taken from the real life.

I am a nostalgia. I also got inspiration for this book from Victorian-Edwardian era’s picture books, antique cross stitch, decor and interior design of William Morris style, Carl Larsson’s watercolor depicting family, home and farm, poem about country life, delight rhythm in guitar, etc.

Oh, that’s what your illustrations remind me of-Carl Larsson! I love his work. And I love watercolors!

Kitchen scene work-in-progress

Where do you do your illustrating work? What process do you use as you create illustrations?

I am now work at the studio in Shanghai. While this book was finished in my parents’ home during the quarantine. The process begins with sketching on iPad. Then I printed them out, traced them on light box with pencil, and colored layer by layer with watercolor. There are some pages drew directly from iPad.

How did you celebrate the book birthday of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup when it came out last August?

I called my dad and mom sharing this good news. It’s very exciting to publish it simultaneously in US and China.

Book scene work-in-progress

I love the heart in The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you illustrate?

My childhood experience had a profound impact on my art career. I am very grateful for each of my family member who gave me lots of love and care during my growth. They gave me a soft heart full of imagination. I read a line which says imagination is good memory. I can’t agree more with that. Those who can create fantasy and marvel are ones who are deeper engaged in the daily life than others.

I love reading how your family gave you a soft heart filled with imagination!

What are you working on now?

I am working on packaging designs, brand collaborations, series book art for young adults about Peking opera, and a picture book I wrote. As for Nianyi, we are preparing the 22aw collection.

You are very busy!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Don’t overthinking, let it flow, simply create things you are truly passionate about.

Be honest, be patient, focus, work hard

Thank you for the tips!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The designers from Nianyi made the little girl’s red polka dress into the real product. The dress will be released in our 22ss collection!

When I drawing the little girl, her hair style is difficult to depict in specific angles. So I tie up my hair into the same style and took selfies modeling for myself.

I think that dress will be adorable!

I love this selfie Vikki took to help her see how to illustrate the little girl’s hairstyle!

Thank you so much, Vikki, for sharing your beautiful work!

Readers, you will want to find your own copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup to enjoy! And don’t forget to swing over to the Author Interview post to read more about this delicious picture book and get your name in the hat to win a copy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Author Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup by Hunter Liguore (Plus #giveaway)

“A rumination on our interconnection with others” (Hunter Liguore)

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Here’s one picture book that will make your read aloud time scrumptious.

We all know how a grandmother can make the world go round. I’m a Nana, and I join with Nan as she cares for her loved ones by feeding them. Not only is this a delicious story, but The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup is filled cover to cover with delectable illustrations and tasty tidbits of all of the work involved in providing the ingredients and growing the soup. Lovely! Thanks so much to Kathy Temean, Hunter Liguore, Vikki Zhang, and Yeehoo Press for introducing me to The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup.

I’m glad you stopped by. Keep reading to meet Hunter Liguore and learn about her picture book, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. See the directions at the bottom of this post to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy.

***Coming soon: Swing back by to meet meet illustrator Vikki Zhang!

Now, let’s get to our interview with Hunter!

Welcome, Hunter! Congratulations on your new book! Tell us a little about The Whole World in Nan’s Soup.

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with ‘all’ people. It is wisdom passed down many generations through my own gran, who understood that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.

Our dinner table doesn’t end at the four corners, but is reciprocal; it extends to all those faceless helpers involved with making sure we’re nourished—and that’s a very beautiful thing! When we take the time—through slow-cooking—to see and talk about ‘all’ people in a bowl of soup, then we can begin to notice it in other areas of our life with the same care and unity.

The more we see our oneness, the more each meal—each bowl of soup—becomes a celebration, and our struggle with each other falls away, and the harmony we experience within will be reflected back.

I love how the interconnectedness plays out in this picture book. I have so many fond memories of eating meals prepared by my grandmothers and mother. Living in an agricultural valley, I see how much work it takes to feed families.

What was your inspiration for The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup?

The inspiration for The Whole World in Nan’s Soup comes from a careful rumination on reciprocity, or the understanding that the food we eat each day is made possible through the dignity of gentle workers. Reciprocity is more than an intellectual understanding of treating others with the same respect we wish for ourselves. It goes deeper and implies, ‘Who I am on the inside is the same as what is on the inside of others,’—and if that’s true, we can experience and discover for ourselves the delicate thread that connects all people.

When we meet others, we can do so with an awareness that their suffering is our suffering, felt and experienced the same way, and through empathy—through not wanting suffering for ourselves—we will not want it for another; thus, we will seek harmony and peace in all our words, actions, and relationships.

This was the foundation of the story, which can be practiced while making soup! As our understanding of reciprocity grows, so does our empathy. The circle of life expands, as we recognize we’re not able to live without those beautiful helpers, which we can now honor with our thankfulness, our kindness, our understanding, our patience, and most of all, our self-responsibility that discerns: we are the root of others’ suffering when we set aside our interconnection. We can always take time to recognize our interconnection with others. Even in a bowl of soup!

Beautiful!

What was your journey for this book?

A very gentle one.

I love hearing that!

How did you celebrate the book birthday of THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP when it came out August 2021?

Making soup and sharing it with family and friends.

Perfect!

I love the heart in THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

For me, writing evolves from our wholeness with our self/others/world, a harmonized unity or intuition. It is a way of life, a practice that is occurring in each delicate moment, a sacred unfolding, one where I’m given an opportunity to bring gentle love, unity, cooperation, and perfection into my craft and art, creating for the sake of creating, while being in tune with the greater whole.

Creativity is such a gift.

What are you working on now?

A vision of our future that includes a human traffic free food chain through a farm-certification program similar to Fair Trade or organic.

That sounds fascinating!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

To all writers/creatives, trust yourself. Writing will only ever be about how much someone is willing to trust their vision. We are inventor of worlds, with words, it’s an art entrusted to the one who perseveres even in doubt, even when nothing makes sense, in order to realize the creative vision as a reality—and that takes trust! It takes belief that uncertainty isn’t difficulty, but an opportunity to shape the creative fire.

Thank you for the encouragement!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a celebration of our interconnection to our world, so I encourage readers to find ways to celebrate life, food, family/friends, our ancestors and relationships, our Earth and the wild ones dwelling in partnership with us; our meals, our dinner table, gentle cooking without harm; celebrate our farms and the food stores you patron, and the people you meet there, who are caring for you. Plant flowers and watch the cycle of this infinite celebration of love and life. Be attentive and you’ll see how connected we truly are. Even in difficulty, we can find small ways to celebrate and contribute to the joy in the world.

Thank you, Hunter, for sharing from your heart. Thank you for visiting today and for creating this beautiful picture book!

Ready to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup (US only)? A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Wednesday, February 9.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win. Example: bookwinner (at) yahoo (dot) com

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Links:

To book on Yeehoo Press: https://www.yeehoopress.com/books/the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup/

Twitter: @skytale_writer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WarriorsWanted/

Website: www.hunterliguore.org

About me: Hunter Liguore is a gentle advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and with one another. An award-winning author, professor, and historian, her writing has appeared internationally in magazines like Spirituality & HealthIrish PagesOrion, and more. When not making soup, she is often roaming old ruins, hillsides, and cemeteries. To learn more, visit: hunterliguore.org or @skytale_writer.